Author Topic: Front Rack Decisions  (Read 4212 times)

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Offline FlashWrogan

Front Rack Decisions
« on: June 07, 2015, 12:08:06 am »
I find myself agonizing over one of my gear choices. I'm sure I am overthinking it, but I am having trouble settling on a low rider front rack. I am going on a 9 month tour next year around the U.S. with my 10 lb dog on my back rack (See my post in general for more info). I'm planning on a lot of camping and living from grocery stores. I am debating between the cheaper Blackburn rack that is rated for 25 lbs and some of the more expensive racks that are more like 40 or 50 lbs (or 60). I have been reading that you want to put more weight in the front panniers to reduce stress on the back tires, improve steering, and prevent you from tipping back on hills, but i don't know how important that is. If I really should be weighing down my front end, a heavier duty rack would be valuable. I was also thinking of doing a rack with a top shelf and a low rider option for a handy storage spot (I don't know where I am putting my sleeping bag yet, and that might be a good option).

I'm probably overthinking it, but getting some direct advice from someone who's been on the road would be very helpful. How do you normally balance the weight in your panniers? How much weight do I really need to plan for? I will probably be packing a bit heavy to start with (first major tour), but I will try to lighten up as much as I can as I go.

Offline DwarvenChef

Re: Front Rack Decisions
« Reply #1 on: June 07, 2015, 04:51:42 am »
After having cheap racks I will never own a cheap rack again. Welds popped and tubes cracked with next to no weight on them, note books for class...

I have Jendd rear racks on our current bikes and they have stood up to some crazy weight, daily shopping runs and such. On my bike, Disc Trucker, I could only get the Surly front rack to fit around the disc brakes and it has also held up well with a #8 Lodge Dutch Oven and kitchen gear in the panniers.

Lately I have not been able to ride much but I'm working on getting better control of my condition. My wife and I plan on touring once that happens and my current weight ration is 60/40 back to front, but that will be altered as the trail dictates. We also have a BoB trailer and both bikes are set up with the hook up so we can also trade off back and forth as needed to allow for good and bad days.

I'll also be following this topic to see how others distribute weight :)
Slow is smooth, smooth is fast.

Offline staehpj1

Re: Front Rack Decisions
« Reply #2 on: June 07, 2015, 08:11:37 am »
After having cheap racks I will never own a cheap rack again. Welds popped and tubes cracked with next to no weight on them, note books for class...

I have the opposite experience.  After crossing the US a couple times as well as doing quite a few other longish tours with inexpensive racks and zero rack issues I will stick with moderately priced racks.  Really flimsy ones are a no go if carrying a lot, but a lot of folks lose sight of the fact that sometimes good enough is good enough.  I think that rear racks like the Axiom Streamliners or the Blackburn EX-1 are kind of in the sweet spot wrt reliability, capacity, and cost.  For front racks something like the Nashbar or Performance lowrider clones are dirt cheap and reliable.  So I personally will avoid the expense of really high dollar stuff like Tubus or even Surly.

In my experience racks are not an item with a high failure rate and in a pinch most failures could be patched up with sticks and bailing wire to get you to the next bike shop.

My experience has been in a range of touring from fairly heavy (45-50 pounds of gear) to ultralight using minimal U/L backpacking stuff (9-14 pounds of gear) so it may or may not apply to those who pack super heavy.

Offline Patco

Re: Front Rack Decisions
« Reply #3 on: June 07, 2015, 12:03:34 pm »
I used Blackburn racks for several years. They were okay but I did have two failures of the rear rack, with one of the failures destroying my rear tire when it slid over the tire, removing rubber from the tire and exposing the tube (and I was 65 miles from a bike shop). I now use Tubus. No problems to date. When using front and rear panniers, I use lowriders on the front (without a front shelf), and I generally load the panniers so they are somewhat equal in weight between the front and rear. I have never, ever had a problem with tipping backwards when climbing, not even when I do not use front panniers. I do notice an incrementally slight improvement in road handling when using front panniers, but not enough to concern me when I only use rear panniers. As for 'packing a bit heavy to start with', I would counsel that you try to eliminate that excess weight before you start. Starting a trip with a heavy bike can just beat you up both physically and psychologically.

Offline Venchka

Re: Front Rack Decisions
« Reply #4 on: June 07, 2015, 05:22:23 pm »
Old Man Mountain racks. Sturdy. Adaptability. Made in the USA. Call them and discuss the right racks for your specific needs.

Wayne


Sent from somewhere around here.
Wayne
Deep in the darkest heart of the East Texas Rain Forest.
Quote
You've come far pilgrim...Feels like far...Were it worth the trouble?...Huh? What trouble?

Offline John Nelson

Re: Front Rack Decisions
« Reply #5 on: June 07, 2015, 05:30:45 pm »
How good of a rack you need depends on how much weight you plan to put on it. The geometry of the rack also matters. While a rack breaking may not be that common, you also don't want it to flex under the load or it can affect handling.

My front panniers are smaller than my rear panniers. I would equalize the weight front/back if I could, but I have to settle for lighter front panniers even if I put all the heavy stuff I can find in them. So I just put as much weight in the front as I can and call it good enough.

As for "tipping backwards", that's not just a function of how much weight is on the back, but of where the center of mass of that weight is relative to the rear hub. So you want to slide that weight as far forward as you can without creating heel strike. Because the rear weight is typically higher than the hub, the center of gravity of the rear weight relative to the hub is also a function of the steepness of the road. It's not really necessary for the front wheel to come off the ground to have problems. Even though you might see nothing different, weight behind the rear hub can take some of the pressure off the front wheels, which can make the handling less precise. It's a subtle thing.

Offline mbattisti

Re: Front Rack Decisions
« Reply #6 on: June 07, 2015, 09:23:55 pm »
Old man Mountain.  Skewer mount.  Bombproof. 

Offline paddleboy17

Re: Front Rack Decisions
« Reply #7 on: June 08, 2015, 12:56:25 pm »
I think you can get a way with a cheaper rear rack but not in the front.  Any front rack induce shimmy will make your life miserable. 
You do not have to invest in Tubus racks, but don't get no name bargain racks either.  I think you need at least a front rack rated to 30 pounds (50 would be better) and a rear rack rated to 40 pounds (more is better).
Danno

Offline Venchka

Re: Front Rack Decisions
« Reply #8 on: June 08, 2015, 09:52:05 pm »
I would seriously look at your rear load with a dog and some sort of dog carrier PLUS most of your touring gear all on the rear rack. What if...
Can the dog and dog carrier work on a high mount front rack and not interfere with cables, steering, etc. ?
Again, call Old Man Mountain. The owner will likely answer the phone. Explain the whole story. Bike, dog, gear load, touring routes, etc. Ask what he recommends.
Hope it all works out for you.

Wayne


Sent from somewhere around here.
Wayne
Deep in the darkest heart of the East Texas Rain Forest.
Quote
You've come far pilgrim...Feels like far...Were it worth the trouble?...Huh? What trouble?

Offline FlashWrogan

Re: Front Rack Decisions
« Reply #9 on: June 09, 2015, 03:31:38 am »
I ended up settling on a Tubus Tara. It seemed like a solid option, and I felt better about the weight. A dog would be too unsteady on the front rack, plus there wouldn't be enough space. I am only adding an extra 10 lbs on the back with her, so the distribution should be ok. You can take a look at the gal that I modeled my setup after at touringtunes.com

indyfabz

  • Guest
Re: Front Rack Decisions
« Reply #10 on: June 10, 2015, 07:13:25 am »
That was quick. If you haven't purchased yet, take a look at the Nitto Big front rack from Rivendell. The front platform is perfect for a sleeping bag or even a smallish tent. The panniers sit between high mount and lowrider level. Pricey but incredibly sturdy and pretty.

Offline westrid_dad

Re: Front Rack Decisions
« Reply #11 on: June 12, 2015, 03:48:35 pm »
+1 for the Nitto Big front rack

Offline scottskaja

Re: Front Rack Decisions
« Reply #12 on: June 16, 2015, 08:29:54 am »
I believe in the 60/40 rule of thumb on weight distribution. Steering is much improved. I rode with a friend last summer that omitted a front rack, loading it all on the back. He popped 3 spokes in 2 days, eventually buying a new rear rim.